I have written about how to buy a kettlebell before, but I’m still getting quite a few questions. So I’d like to shoot out another quick article and tell you what I think the most important and irrelevant characteristics of kettlebells are.
The size and shape of the handle. Once you start doing movements like kettlebell snatches, you will realize that if the handle is too wide, thick, think, or worst of all, too long, you could be in for a hard time. With snatches the problem is that the bell has to swing up and over your arm. Whether you are using a 24kg or a 16, it hurts if you do it too often.
The longer the handle gets, the harder it will be to tame the arc and guide it softly to the destination on your wrist. Long handles can also make the rack position (where you hold it prior to a military press at the end of a clean) problematic.
The diameter of the bell.
If it’s too big around, you will again get a funny rack and might have some trouble with your arm once you’re trying to press it overhead. Off-centered weight is one of the best reasons to use Russian kettlebells for strength training. But off-centered and enormously too-wide and you’re asking for problems.
Test a few out. I would go with whichever bells feel the best in the rack for you. If you really want to get standardized, I recommend Perform Better’s competition kettlebells. They are all the same size, no matter how heavy they get. Very cool for juggling too.
You might think this would be harder for a novice to gauge, but trust me, you can do it. Go into Dick’s sporting goods or Sports Authority and look at their crappy little bells. Tell me you think they are good quality. Nope! You can’t do it, can you? Once you order a good one, you’ll never go back.
PS: Despite my issues with some of their methods, I really do believe Dragon Door Kettlebells are the best quality.
I know, it sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But here’s the thing. Shipping a big iron ball seems horrible for your psyche and your wallet, I know. But if you find a decent quality kettlebell in a used store, guess what? It is going to cost more per pound. Maybe two or even three times as much as buying online would. The cost evens out, it really does.
Pay for quality and I guarantee you, you’ll be less worried about shipping.
If you’d like a more in-depth buying guide or other brands, I wrote this page on kettlebell resources. If you’re more interested in my experience with actual kettlebell training, you can read that as well.